By Andrew Westoll
When I tell you that my pet Max is stubborn and hilarious, you’ll probably assume I’m talking about a cat or a dog, possibly even a bunny rabbit. But what if Max weren’t a cat or a dog? What if, instead of being an elderly Wheaten terrier who likes to play ball-in-cup, Max were a crocodile, a wallaby or a tarantula? Would you think I was crazy?
These days, fashionable pet people carry Chihuahuas in their purses and feed them organic canine cookies, and the rest of us might at worst roll our eyes. But the man who feeds fresh meat to a Siberian tiger in his backyard is considered a redneck maniac.
No figures exist for the number of exotic pets currently in Canada, but rest assured, they’re out there by the nest-full, and they could be living next door.
Toronto residents will never forget the six-foot-long cobra who escaped its enclosure in a west-end home in 2007. We all remember that poor woman who was killed by one of her fiancé’s tigers near 100 Mile House, B.C. And for pure tragic irony, no incident can rival the fatal mauling of Norman Buwalda in 2010 by one of his Siberian tigers. Mr. Buwalda happened to be the chairman of the Canadian Exotic Animal Owners’ Association, and had fought for years to keep his cats despite his neighbours’ repeated complaints.
More recently, Darwin the IKEA monkey has become the subject of a sensational custody battle, while the German government has levied a $1,500 fine on Justin Bieber for trying to smuggle his pet capuchin monkey into the country (where he then abandoned it). Celebrities have long shown a predilection for exotic pets, from Michael Jackson’s chimp named Bubbles to Nicolas Cage’s octopus to Leonardo DiCaprio’s gigantic tortoise. More....